Kenyan teachers in most schools have an incredibly large workload due to large class sizes and under-staffing. This workload affects the quality of their teaching, attention they pay to individual students and their general productivity.
The teachers feel they have too many responsibilities and far too little time to fulfill them all. Their responsibilities fall under two categories – time spent with students and time spent without students.
Teachers feel the weight of these responsibilities because of shortages in staffing, having to deal with a very large number of students and limitations brought about by school facilities.
“Time management is the biggest challenge. I have to have time for the learners yet have time to attend meetings, do lesson plans, records of work and participate in all school activities” – English Teacher (Nyahururu)
Teachers adjust to this challenge by limiting the service they deliver to students with the areas that suffer the most being lesson preparation, depth of lesson deliver, classroom assessment of students and support for weak students.
“I don’t give many assessments because I cannot mark all of them …with more time I would give more time and attention to more students in a personal capacity. “– Chemistry Teacher (Kajiado)
“I deal with large class of 62 students so I can hardly give time to students individually.” – English Teacher (Mumias)
The majority of teachers in Kenya do not have the benefit of continuous professional development. This means they are not well versed with pedagogical approaches and skills to handle students in the 21st century classroom.
Teachers say that their current methods are no longer effective and they need to find alternatives. Student centred approaches of teaching and utilising ICTs seem to be the most favoured by the teachers.
“Chalk and board is no longer working, learners” – Biology Teacher (Kijabe)
“We need to find a way to excite students” – Mathematics Teacher (Muranga)
The main role of a teacher is to deliver lessons in class and from our discussions with teachers, they have challenges relating to pedagogy.
If some parts of a subject’s syllabus are abstract, do not relate to real life, or just difficult to teach, it presents a problem for teachers in class. It makes it much harder to get students to understand. This problem is compounded by teachers lacking time to sufficiently prepare for lessons by looking for new content or pedagogical approaches.
“Some concepts are abstract and it is difficult for my students to understand. So I have to work extra hard to bring out the concept” – Biology Teacher (Kijabe)
For teachers, assessment of students is a labour-intensive, time consuming task which they cannot afford to perform regularly – and yet it’s critical. Furthermore, current assessment methods do not accurately track student learning.
Assessment after each lesson is a core task for every teacher and usually takes the form of giving questions to students to test their understanding of lessons. The process should enable a teacher to assess the understanding of each individual student.
However, teachers do not execute their assessment tasks well because of their work load, class sizes and the methods of assessment adopted.
“I would like assess students a lot more but then I have several classes with 45 to 50 students…our assessment methods are also not proper…we should have lots of assessments as we go along and give attention to individual learners.” – English Teacher (Kajiado)
“The method we use to assess is archaic. We give them too many questions. Perhaps we should assess few things that portray the true picture of understanding.”– Kiswahili Teacher (Baringo)
“If there’s a smarter way of assessing the learner without burdening the teacher, then that will be a welcome boost” – English Teacher (Nyahururu)
Most of the educational content used in Kenyan schools do not sufficiently contextualise and explain concepts. The content tends to focus on preparing students for exams and not attainment of the curriculum’s learning objectives.
Teachers rely on content from books to teach what’s laid out in the syllabus. Indeed, most books are designed to specifically follow each class’ syllabus. There are several concepts that are not well articulated in these books and this makes it very difficult for teachers to teach and for students to read and understand.
“Syllabus needs to improve. What is being prescribed and taught is abstract. I wish it was close to what was in the field or is available locally. This though is beyond our means.” – Chemistry Teacher (Muranga)
Several teachers have attempted to overcome the challenges of abstract content in books by using digital content from the internet and other sources or by creating digital content themselves. This is the area where teachers request for support the most.
“If teachers can be facilitated to use ICT to prepare for lessons and to include rich media to create amazing lessons…” – Biology Teacher (Kijabe)
“More advanced teaching aids that are more descriptive and animated” – Computer Studies Teacher (Mombasa)